This is a question where you can open up and be honest with your past experiences and what you feel comfortable working with. Each facility/unit/department has different patients with different acuity levels, so the exact number of patients can vary from department to department. This is a good time to emphasize how you keep yourself organized in your work and let the interviewer know that you can take on any workload that comes your way.
"During my career as a nurse, I have found out that the number of patients that I'm comfortable handling is relative to the unit that I'm working on. In a highly acute ICU, I've worked with as a high as 8 patients on a shift and felt this was overwhelming. On a Med/Surg unit, 8 patients on a unit that I'm responsible for is low. No matter the unit that I work on, I have a great method in place for prioritizing the needs of my patients and make sure that all of my patients needs are met in a timely manner."
"Going into my first job, I have put a lot of thought into this question without having direct experience. Through my clinical rotations during nursing school, I never had a unit with patients to myself as I was always working with a preceptor. In a Family Practice clinic, seeing around three patients per hour, or between 20-25 per day, seemed very manageable in the way I watched her manage the day. For myself, handling a large patient load for a day will come down to my organizational skills and ability to prioritize needs in a timely manner."
"As an emergency nurse for many years, I was able to successfully manage the shifts where we were bombarded with patients. On these days, we often saw over 60 patients on a 10 hour shift and I was comfortable on those days due to my ability to stay organized and prioritize what needed to be done first. "